Psalm 44: Voices

Shauna Bowes



Pre-Iranian Hostage Crisis, 1979, U.S. Embassy Employee


8. You give us victory over our foes;

You thwart those who hate us.


It can be extremely frightening to be here in Iran. Especially as an American. Recently there have been violent protestsÉ Against the Shah, against AmericaÉ and itŐs scary to see. ItŐs scary to live here. But no matter what, God is always on our side. Watching over us. We are working for America, doing a good thingÉ God protects us from the violence and cruelty. From the protests and mobsÉ He keeps those who loathe us outside of the embassy gates. I can swallow my fear and stomach the protests because I know God will give us victory.


9. In God we glory at all times,

and praise Your name unceasingly.


God, we praise Your glory inexorably. You are our one true GodÉ Here in Iran, it is easy to lose track of you amongst the angry mobs and brutalized peopleÉBut we never do. We praise you always. We know you are here with us. We are always confident in You. Glory to God! Glory to America.


Iranian Hostage Crisis, 1980, Same U.S. Embassy Employee


11. You make us retreat before our foe;

our enemies plunder us at will.


I will never forget the day when the hostages clambered over the Embassy gate, ransacked our building, and ripped us from the world that we knew. ItŐs been a year now, but that day still burns fresh in my memory. That gate was akin to Your pearly gates, LordÉYour holy, perfect gates impervious to being tarnished and taintedÉWell look how well that turned out, God. Guess your American gates werenŐt so perfect after all. We retreated, Lord. God, did we retreat. We screamed. We ran. But we couldnŐt escape the sea of people who hated us. Your love didnŐt stop their hate. We have been plundered and humiliated without You at our side.


This verse was difficult for me to write. ItŐs very hard for me to question the Lord like this, even if it isnŐt through my own voice.


14. You make us the butt of our neighbors,

the scorn and derision of those around us.


I have never seen such contempt from another human being before. Not only are we hated here, but we are also the source of extreme repulsion and unwavering revulsionÉ We are a joke. They ridicule and taunt and leerÉ We are beaten with rubber hoses and telephone booksÉ They put sacks over our heads and line us up to be executed. They pull the trigger, but no bullets are firedÉ Yet we all fall to our knees crying out and sobbing every time because we never know if they decided this time to put a bullet in our brainsÉ ItŐs so humiliating. We are subjected to the cruelest derision, the most spiteful scorn. We are nothing but animals, all because of You.


ItŐs also overwhelming how much I want to write angrily towards God. This period of history is one of the most interesting to me, and I sympathize so deeply with the American hostages. I feel emotionally connected with them, so writing from their perspective makes me feel more connected to the anger behind this psalm.


18. All this has come upon us,

yet we have not forgotten You,

or been false to Your covenant.


You have forgotten us, Lord, but we certainly havenŐt forgotten You. We love You, worship You, live for YouÉ What have You done for us!?... If this is GodŐs blessing then I can live without itÉ Where were You when they blindfolded us and dragged us away!? What happened to Your covenant!? Are You a liar and a hypocriteÉ? Is this punishment even though we have not strayed from You!?... I donŐt understand!! Out of all this misery we still worship You, but You give nothing in return.


23. It is for Your sake that we are slain all day long,

that we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.


What have You done, Lord, to help us!? You let us be beat, tortured, humiliatedÉ You let them treat us like animalsÉ We are their playthings. IŐm not a human any longer. And all You do is stand by and let us be tossed around like dirty laundryÉ What did You do when they came for us? What have You been doing for this year while we have been rotting as hostages!? Why, God, have You not heard our cries!? Why do You let us be tortured!? You have done nothing for us while we stay here to be tortured for You.


24. Rouse Yourself; why do You sleep, O Lord?

Awaken, do not reject us forever!


I am sick and tired of You doing nothing. Help us!! Do not hide from us any longerÉ I will not take this! Get up!! Stop rejecting us! We are here worshipping you stillÉ Save us! Help us! I do not beg youÉ. I command you!


26. We lie prostrate in the dust;

our body clings to the ground.

27. Arise and help us,

redeem us, as befits Your faithfulness.


We have nothing leftÉ We are lying here, in the dingy rooms replete with grime and grief. We are clinging to any shred of hope left. We have nothing else, and IŐm beginning to believe we donŐt even have You. I challenge You to save us from staying in this dust forever!! Get up and help us, Lord!! We need You, and it is Your duty to be here!!